President’s Slate Boasts Talented Cadre of Black Legal, Corporate and Civic Leaders
On a cool, festive night in the Jeep lined parking lot of the Westin Hotel in Wilmington then President-elect Biden thanked the black community for their support and committed to having their backs, just as they had his. After keeping a string of policy promises – enacting a historic child tax credit, lifting families out of poverty and investing in HBCUs President Biden has turned his attention to black political empowerment. Earlier this month, Democratic National Committee members voted to approve a slate of 75 Biden nominees to serve as at-large members that have been put forward by Chair Jaime Harrison. The vote took place in a virtual meeting placing long time Biden allies, and CBC loyalists in the national democratic body.
The Biden slate proposed by DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison, will make up an influential faction of the approximately 447 voting DNC members, will select other members of the DNC committees and help shape the future of the party, ensuring that it continues to be more inclusive and reflective of the electorate. It should not go unnoticed that Biden DNC picks further increase the clout of the 57-member Congressional Black Caucus and closely mirror picks in his administration including former CBC member and current Vice President Kamala Harris, along with former CBC chairs HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge and White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond – the highest ranking African American in government.
Unlike other periodicals who seek to career shame members of the Biden slate for their professional roles, The Sentinel has decided to highlight a few of the President’s at-large nominees. These talented power brokers have a broad depth and breadth of government, political and private sector experience. Many will be serving for the first time and are guaranteed to bring a fresh perspective to compliment the new chairman. All have strong ties to the Biden Harris Administration, the Congressional Black Caucus, or its affiliates:
Lacy M. Johnson— Board Member, Congressional Black Caucus Institute and Partner in Taft’s Public Affairs Strategies Group and Managing Partner of the firm’s Washington, DC office
Johnson’s ties to CBC members goes back decades since his early days as an activist lawyer in Indianapolis. His closeness to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) is widely known and, he shares Fraternal relationships (Omega Psi Phi and Sigma Pi Phi) with the politician who helped save our democracy, Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC). He also served as an advisor to the past CBC chairs that included Fudge, Richmond, and Butterfield. He is rumored to be godfather to CBC Vice Chairman Andre Carson (D-IN). The quiet power broker helped revitalize the Congressional Black Caucus PAC now chaired by Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY). The PAC’s previous board and treasurer were dogged by a series of FEC inquiries for mismanagement. Johnson helped right the ship. Lacy also sits on the board of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute (CBCI) that host bootcamps around the country that train young black men and women to run for office and work on political campaigns. He is a prolific fundraiser who was also instrumental in raising money for the Biden presidential transition committee helping in the committee’s success despite the outgoing administration’s attempts to thwart ascertainment. Johnson also serves as a mentor to young lawyers and government relations professionals throughout the Midwest and Northeast. Lacy is returning to the DNC after having served during the Obama presidency.
Marcus Sebastian Mason—Board Member, Congressional Black Caucus PAC and Senior Partner at The Madison Group
Mason, a Los Angeles native and former collegiate athlete, served as Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for CBC members Walter R. Tucker from Compton and Juanita Millender-McDonald from Carson before beginning his career in the private sector with Amtrak. Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek placed him on the Corporate Advisory Council of the CBC Foundation before placing him the Board of Directors. Mason, Meeks and Richmond, all members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. are loyal Clyburn lieutenants. Mason also runs the Majority Whip’s Super PAC, Protecting Our Vote, which played a pivotal role in electing Biden allies Troy Carter (LA-2) and Shontel Brown (OH-11) to seats vacated by Richmond and Fudge when they were tapped to join the Administration. His foray into Biden world began when he was at Amtrak and worked with then Senator Biden, and his staff, on the High-Speed Rail Investment Act. In 2020 he joined the Biden team early with then campaign Co-Chair Cedric Richmond and went on to chair the campaign’s African American Leadership Council. Mason was the long-time president of Washington Government Relations Group, a volunteer association that mentors’ African American lobbyists and raises scholarship money for students interested in politics. He also sits on the board of the Congressional Black Caucus’ PAC. DNC Chairman Harrison appointed Mason to serve on DNC Budget and Finance Committee. Like Johnson, he is returning to the DNC after having served during the Obama presidency.
Edward “Smitty” Smith—managing partner, D.C. office of law firm DLA Piper
“Smitty” as he is known former FCC Chair Mignon Clyburn served as Chief of Staff and Special Counsel at the FCC during the second term of the Obama Administration. Clyburn is the eldest daughter of Whip Clyburn. Smith also served as Special Advisor at the telecom policy unit at the Department of Commerce during the first Obama term. He boasts strong ties to CBC members like GK Butterfield (D-NC) and worked side-by-side with members of the Caucus who served on the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee on broadcast diversity and telecommunications issues.
Kenny Thompson, Jr.—TCU Board Trustee, President’s Commission on White House Fellowships and VP of external affairs, North America at PepsiCo
Kenny, a collegiate standout on the TCU Horn Frogs baseball team, cut his political teeth in the Obama White House serving as Director of Message Events for then Vice President Biden, Senior Advisor to Ambassador Ron Kirk and Advance Lead for President Obama. Kenny joined the 2020 campaign early raising money for Biden through the primary and remained loyal to his old boss, even when things looked bleak. Kenny also served on the Biden African American Leadership Council helping to raise money from across the country. He also served as a member of the Biden-Harris Transition Team and lead private sector outreach and engagement. Kenny also serves on a number of nonprofit boards including the Women’s Congressional Policy Institute. Harrison appointed the Biden loyalists to the Rules and Bylaws Committee.
Nicole Isaac—Adjunct Professor, Nonprofit Founder and director of international strategic response at Facebook
Nicole Isaac’s rockstar status has never been questioned. A former mentee of then Hill staffer now Surface Transportation Board Vice Chairman Robert Primus, she served is senior roles in both the US House and Senate and was a law clerk in the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Isaac also served as an Adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and Georgetown University. This Biden loyalist serves on the board of directors of the Biden Foundation was former for the then Vice President before going to serve President Obama for nearly five years. Isaac is the Founder of Code the Streets, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to maximize access to employment opportunities for underserved youth through technology. DNC chairman and Nicole are both Ivy League graduates having graduated Yale and Brown University, respectively. Isaac will be appointed to the DNC’s 11-member Budget and Finance Committee.
Tonya Williams—Nonprofit Board Member, head of external engagement & corporate responsibility, SoftBank Group International
Williams, a North Carolina native and accomplished lawyer, served as General Counsel to the President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina State Senate before joining the team of former CBC GK Butterfield. Tonya also worked as Floor Assistant for Butterfield when he served as Chief Deputy Whip and key member of Majority Whip Clyburn’s team. She and Harrison worked together whipping votes on key legislation helping to secure legislative victories for the Pelosi/Hoyer/Clyburn leadership team. Williams went on to serve as director of legislative affairs for Vice President Biden during the Obama-Biden second term shuttling between the White House and an ornate office just off the Senate Floor. Williams joined the multinational Softbank and worked her way from Director of External Affairs for the firm’s Opportunity Fund to the head of External engagement & Corporate Responsibility. Tonya volunteers on the board of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation and is Vice Chair of Public Affairs for the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Williams was appointed to the Rules and Bylaws Committee.